Supporting students on the autism spectrum

December 21, 2017

Tertiary study can be difficult for some people on the autism spectrum. Katy Sinton, Inclusive Education co-ordinator at Lincoln University, talks about the approach the Canterbury university takes.

AS A SMALL university on a compact campus, Lincoln offers an environment which is easier to navigate and more personal than a larger institution.

Students quickly become known as individuals to both teaching and support staff.

These features offer clear advantages to students on the autism spectrum.

Inclusive Education at Lincoln developed a support framework which builds on these inherent strengths.

Using the professional assessment of the student’s condition as the basis, support strategies are agreed and, if the student wishes, a document is written which fills out the picture of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

It includes an account of behaviours which may be challenging, with some explanation of when and why they might arise, and anything else relevant.

A meeting with each lecturer may be arranged for early in the semester, with this document as a starting point.


  • ‘Some of X’s social behaviour may be different from neurotypical people. If this behaviour appears, she is not deliberately being difficult, lazy or untidy. It is part of her condition.’
  • ‘X prefers not to make eye contact.’

Where appropriate, the student is assigned a mentor, who may also act as a note-taker. This person is a member of the Inclusive Education team of casual staff (not a fellow student). He or she helps the student understand and manage the demands of university life, with the aim of encouraging independence, and acts as a support person e.g. to introduce the student to the lecturer.

This article first appeared in the Altogether Autism Journal Issue 1, 2018.



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